Gaborone – Could this be their year, or it is just another flash in the pan? This became the pertinent question among fans soon after Township Rollers’ 3-0 resounding victory over seasoned Sudanese campaigners, Al Merreikh, in the preliminary round of the caf Champions League on Saturday, 10 February.
Rollers have been perennial underachievers on the continent, failing to go beyond the first round despite countless attempts.
However, on Saturday, the expensively assembled side took a bold step towards erasing bitter memories of the past with a clinical 3-0 win over the visitors.
Rollers’ opponents touched down at the Sir Seretse Khama International Airport, with an intimidating record, having won the CAF Confederations Cup previously, and reached the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2015.
Merreikh, one of Africa’s oldest clubs having been founded in 1908, is ranked fifth in Africa. However, that mattered little as they came unstuck against a determined Rollers.
Two first half goals from Mosha Gaolaolwe and Edwin Moalosi and a third from substitute, Segolame Boy, meant the Sudanese giants now face a mammoth task to progress to the first round.
Rollers coach, Nikola Kavazovic was elated and praised his boys for sticking to instructions.
Merreikh looked dangerous at times, but still conceded three well-taken goals before a bellowing National Stadium crowd.
But Kavazovic has warned his charges that “hell awaits in Sudan”, as Merreikh is expected to come out guns blazing.
“The players’ mental strength would thoroughly be tested. We must be happy with today’s result, but nothing is over, absolutely nothing.
“Over there (in Sudan), it will be hell. Over 70,000 fans will be at the stadium; that’s going to be difficult,” he said after Saturday’s victory.
The coach used strikers, Joel Mogorosi and Mthokozisi Msomi, both suspended for local games after their involvement in an infamous brawl during a league match against TAFIC three weeks ago.
Both teams have intimidating reputations at home with Rollers having won the domestic title 14 times while Merreikh, known bitter rivals to Al Hilal, have 16 titles to their name.
Meanwhile, Botswana’s other representative in continental competitions, Jwaneng Galaxy, succumbed to a 1-0 away loss to Costa do Sol of Mozambique in the CAF Confederations Cup.
Galaxy would now look to turn the tables when they entertain the visitors in the return leg this weekend.
Galaxy is making their debut in continental football and would be happy that they managed to restrict the damage to just one goal, playing away from home.